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eLearning Blog: Strengthening and Encouraging the Use of Home Language

on Friday, 08 May 2020.

By: Clare Roach, Itzxul Moreno, Jennifer Dees, and Katy Lichon

Strengthening and Encouraging the Use of Home Language

Educators are navigating unprecedented challenges, and the ENL team has heard from many of you who have questions about English learners and remote learning. We are responding to these concerns each week with strategies and suggestions.

We’ve addressed many topics in past posts, including navigating communication, the digital divide, delivering clear directions, inserting language supports, providing opportunities for ELs to practice speaking in eLearning, and supporting older siblings throughout eLearning. This post was written in response to a question we received from a teacher in Oklahoma.

Challenge: I am struggling to promote engagement with my students whose parents do not speak much English. I find that eLearning seems to be least effective for them. Is there anything I can be doing differently?

This is an excellent question and remains a pervasive challenge for so many schools and teachers. Some of our families remain difficult to reach and the language barriers remain profound. Parents who don’t understand eLearning procedures or explanations of assignments find it especially difficult to support their children’s engagement in remote learning. Nonetheless, there are several weeks of school left and opportunities remain to promote student learning. Here are a few ideas to try.

Find a family liaison

It’s crucial that families for whom eLearning is challenging know that they still matter to your school. If the parents do not speak English, find someone who speaks the home language to call on behalf of the school and let the family know that their children’s teachers are thinking about their family and want to know what they can do to help. Some schools have utilized multilingual aides, office staff, pastors, and even highly dependable parents to make these caring calls. This type of nimble outreach can lead to clarification of procedures, the delivery of school supplies or paper packets if technology is not a viable option, etc. The liaisons can also assist in determining if families have access to food, transportation, support from social service agencies, and health concerns. Minimally, they let vulnerable families know they remain a vital part of your school community and their children are important to everyone in the school. Mobilize your family liaisons now and track communication.

Leverage the home language

There’s a wealth of research that indicates what students learn in their home language improves what students will eventually learn in English. Simply put, the stronger a student is in their first language, especially when it comes to reading and writing, the stronger they will be in English development. As a result, finding ways to help parents promote learning at home in their own language can produce great fruit. Here are a couple of resources that might be helpful.

Encouraging parents to speak and engage in their native language:

Sharing resources to bolster home language:

The majority of ELs in Catholic schools speak Spanish, so we have included PK-5 Learning Resources in Spanish below: 

5th-8th Learning Resources in Spanish:

Resources for Vietnamese: 

Resources in Tagalog:

As you find ways to connect with your families and bolster home language for academic learning, please remember that home language development has also been shown to improve self-esteem and motivation. Students are spending a great deal of time at home immersed in language, culture, and customs – all gifts in our busy world. This is a wonderful time to remind families of the lasting gift of rich home language development as transmitted through music, meals, television, reading, and storytelling. 

Thank you for connecting, supporting, and walking with these families through these challenging times, and thank you for reminding them that you cannot wait to resume English learning when school resumes.

If you want to learn more about these and other strategies, consider becoming an ENL Hernandez Fellow this year. We need more teacher-leaders equipped to advocate for the success of English learners in Catholic schools! If you are interested in applying or if you would like to submit a question for us to answer on this blog, please email Itzxul Moreno at .

The ENL Team
Clare, Itzxul, Jenny, and Katy

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